A look at some the year’s best films, many of them hidden gems

Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

From cannibals to cancel culture orchestra conductors, 2022 has been a year of wonderful surprises.

Satisfying hit films have been a hallmark of 2022, from the inventive, slap-happy comedy-action film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” which earned $74 million at the box office, to the rousing thrills of “Top Gun: Maverick,” and the absurdly entertaining Baz Luhrmann biopic “Elvis.”

But amidst the blockbusters are a host of smaller films out now or coming soon to Atlanta that are just as worth a watch.

Tár

We’re used to films with dynamic, charismatic men going after what they want. But to see a woman behaving with that same unapologetic self-interest and ambition is partly what makes Tár, a film about a selfish and immensely talented, charismatic orchestra conductor (Cate Blanchett) getting her comeuppance, so fascinating. Directed by Todd Field from his own drum-tight script, Tár is as satisfyingly layered as they come and Blanchett delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as a brilliant conniver behaving badly. Yes, she’s a stinker, but oh-so-fun to watch in a film destined to become a modern classic.

On demand now on Prime Video, Apple TV+, Vudu and more

Credit: Anne Joyce / Focus Features

Credit: Anne Joyce / Focus Features

Armageddon Time

Viewers may be familiar with “The Fabelmans,” director Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical account of his complicated family life. But lesser known and far more interesting is director James Gray’s (“The Immigrant”) dramatization of his upbringing as budding juvenile delinquent Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) in 1980s Queens, New York including a stint at a prep school where the Trump family reigned. Jeremy Strong (”Succession”) is remarkable as Paul’s father, and Anthony Hopkins is brilliant, as usual, as the beloved grandfather who gives wayward Paul his moral center. But it’s Jaylin Webb who nearly steals the show as Paul’s best buddy Johnny whose own coming-of-age is far more painful, with his dawning realization of all the ways doors are shutting and his options narrowing as a Black kid growing up in America.

On demand now on YouTube, Prime Video, Apple TV and others

Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldw

Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldw

Bones and All

Though it sounds utterly implausible, this love story about two cannibals is as delicate and romantic as they come. Director Luca Guadagnino has made his career exploring the concept of love and its myriad expressions. This fantasy about a young girl (the captivating Taylor Russell) who discovers she shares a taste for blood with a punk rock kid (Timothée Chalamet) is a realistic exploration of what first love feels like from a director able to brilliantly register that intensity. But “Bones and All” is also about what it feels like to be on the outside and misunderstood. Mark Rylance is absolutely terrifying as a fellow cannibal Russell meets along the way, a kind of Ed Gein-meets-Tennessee Williams utterly original movie foe.

On demand and in theaters

Opening in January

Close

Another coming-of-age story in a year rich with them, the Belgian film “Close” won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and tells the story of inseparable 13-year-old best friends Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) who cavort and cuddle like puppies and enjoy the kind of closeness adult friendships rarely match. But like so many boys-to-men, their relationship is viewed with suspicion by their classmates. Lukas Dhont’s film, which he based on his own experiences, is about a journey that extends beyond national boundaries: the demand placed on boys as they mature to “toughen up” and say goodbye to a part of themselves, a heartbreaking lesson with painful consequences in “Close.”

In theaters Jan. 27

Women Talking

Director Sarah Polley has created a disturbing rendition of a true story about a group of Mennonites and the unthinkable sexual violence the women experienced at the hands of the community’s men. Polley’s film imagines those women gathering in a hayloft and debating what to do next in this acting tour de force with standout performances from Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy and a truly remarkable turn from Sheila McCarthy.

In theaters Jan. 13

Opening in February

The Quiet Girl

Beautifully wrought, this poetic Irish-language film follows the transformation of overlooked, nearly mute 10-year-old girl Cáit (Catherine Clinch) whose harried, pregnant mother decides to lighten her load and loan her out to a childless distant relative for the summer. But under the care of this farmer and his wife, Cáit blossoms. Director Colm Bairéad’s first feature film about the power of nurturing and parenthood as a skill set some simply don’t possess is a heartbreaker. “The Quiet Girl” is also Ireland’s official submission for the Best International Feature at the 2023 Academy Awards. Fair warning: you’ll need a hankie for this one.

In theaters Feb. 23.